Announcing the Finalists of the 2023 Chain-Writing Experiment on Collapse

September 25, 2023


It is 2053.

The United States is no longer a superpower.

AWMF’s inaugural Chain-Writing experiment asked participants to posit what 2053 would look like if the United States was no longer a superpower. There were three phases, each asking about a 10-year period (2024-2033, 2034-2043, 2044-2053). We asked participants to answer the following questions: what specifically collapsed or failed? What trends and events led to this? What are the implications for U.S. national interests?

Read more about the structure of the experiment here.

Phase 1 Winner - Lance Menthe

A Small White Mouse in Dresden

Lance Menthe is a senior physical scientist at the RAND Corporation, where he works on artificial intelligence and new tools and processes for military intelligence. His doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, concerned twisting conformations of DNA. In his spare time, he writes contemporary and speculative fiction.

2024-2033

The crisis began when a small, white mouse in Dresden failed to die. It took some time for anyone to notice: The median lifespan of a lab mouse is about 20 months, but 30 months is not unheard of, and not dying is not a singular event. It was only when a newly hired graduate student at the Max Planck Institute conducted an inventory of the mice retired from previous experiments that she realized something extraordinary had occurred….

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Finalists

Phase 1

SECOND PLACE

Patrick Hutson,
Compacts and Crisis

Patrick Hutson is from Towson, Maryland. He attended the University of Maryland, College Park in 2016 and majored in government and politics with minors in history and global terrorism studies from Maryland’s START program. Graduating in 2019, he began employment at the Department of Justice, where he remains. He is currently a graduate student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service earning a degree in security studies. His areas of interest include intelligence history, existential risk, and forecasting and foresight, and his hobbies include reading comics, writing poetry, and roleplaying games.  

Patrick Hutson’s views are entirely his own and do not represent the views of his employer or schools.

THIRD PLACE

David E. Degenhardt, No Single Event

David is an active-duty U.S. Army strategist with previous experience in air and missile defense and aviation. He was previously selected as an Art of War Scholar at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) and is currently participating in the Army People Seminar for Academic Year 2023–24. David holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Kent State University and master’s degrees in organizational leadership from Brandman University, in history from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and in military arts and science from CGSC.

All opinions are his own, and do not represent the position of the Department of Defense or the United States Army.

Phase 2 Winner - Patrick Hutson

The Methuselah Treatment

Patrick Hutson is from Towson, Maryland. He attended the University of Maryland, College Park in 2016 and majored in government and politics with minors in history and global terrorism studies from Maryland’s START program. Graduating in 2019, he began employment at the Department of Justice, where he remains. He is currently a graduate student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service earning a degree in security studies. His areas of interest include intelligence history, existential risk, and forecasting and foresight, and his hobbies include reading comics, writing poetry, and roleplaying games. 

Patrick Hutson’s views are entirely his own and do not represent the views of his employer or schools.

 

2034-2043

They called it meth.

It was short for what scientists called “the Methuselah Treatment,” but those who coined the term claimed that, for societies, it was just as addicting and destructive as the original meth.

Like any addict, wealthy societies were spending all their money on the source of their addiction. Budgets for defense, aid, and research were halved and halved again as wealthy states in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific were forced to spend billions to support healthcare for their aging populations. And as populations aged, political support for meth—and all its healthcare costs—grew rapidly. After all, no one wanted to be the politician that makes their elderly voters live for centuries but asks that their children drop dead at 77….

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Finalists

Phase 2

SECOND PLACE

Kevin L. Schwartz, UPCC v. Sanchez

Kevin L. Schwartz is deputy director of the Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, as well as a research fellow focused on the history, culture, and politics of Iran and codirector of the 9/11 Legacies Project. His writings on Iran, U.S. foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in a wide range of international academic journals and media outlets. He holds a doctorate in Near Eastern studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

THIRD PLACE

Jan Osburg, A World Behind

Jan Osburg is a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation. His work focuses on aerospace, defense, and homeland security. Recent projects involved assessing next-generation launch vehicles, space rescue, cislunar grand strategy, planetary defense, researching small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) and counter-UAS technologies, developing resistance-based defense strategies for the Baltic states, and mitigating the North Korean nuclear threat. He spent significant time as an embedded advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan—six months with MNF-I in Baghdad in 2009, three months with CFSOCC-A in Kabul in 2010, and two months with the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Bagram in 2013.


Jan Osburg contributed on his own time and his writings do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer.

Phase 3 Winner - Thomas J. Shattuck

Reflections 100 Years After the Collapse

Thomas J. Shattuck is the global order program manager at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. Shattuck is a nonresident research fellow at the Global Taiwan Institute and a member of Foreign Policy for America’s NextGen Foreign Policy Initiative and the Pacific Forum’s Young Leaders Program, where he participated in the 2022 U.S.–Philippines Next-Generation Leaders in Security Initiative. His research focuses on cross-strait relations, Taiwanese and Chinese domestic and foreign affairs, Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, and the U.S. role in the Indo-Pacific. In 2022, he was one of 39 civilians selected to participate in the Department of Defense’s Joint Civilian Orientation Conference.

2044-2053

Excerpt from “Reflections 100 Years after the Collapse of American Primacy,” Luna Times, July 4, 2153, Henry Kissinger, Minister for Earth Affairs, Lunar Mega-Colony 1.

“…which brings me to why I left my adopted home of the United States in 2053 for the safety of the first lunar colony. The United States that I had known was collapsing before my eyes. I no longer recognized my home. It became less and less the America I loved all because that damn mouse wouldn’t die!

U.S. officials were caught flat-footed by the shocking and unprecedented reforms in the United Nations in 2041, and while the other ousted P5 members begrudgingly adopted their new reduced role, Washington left the organization and kicked the UN out of New York by 2045. As UN Secretary-General Modi closed the doors of the headquarters for the final time, he quipped, “America just locked itself out of relevance for the final time.”

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Finalists

Phase 3

SECOND PLACE

Daniel R. Mahanty, The Sick (Old) Man of the West

Dan Mahanty is the director of research, learning, and innovation at Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), an international organization committed to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. He also served as CIVIC’s U.S. director from 2017–21. Prior to CIVIC, Dan served at the U.S. Department of State from 1999–2016, where he developed and led the Office of Security and Human Rights. He has a master’s degree from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from George Mason University.

THIRD PLACE

Jason Rimmelin, The Global North Strikes Back

Jason Rimmelin is a major in the U.S. Air Force. He is currently a fellow at the China Aerospace Studies Institute in Washington, DC. He previously served in a variety of assignments in the Middle East and Indo-Pacific. His most recent assignment was a fellowship at Amazon Web Services on the aerospace and satellite team.